Loyalty sexier than ever

I’ve been a big fan of loyalty programs since my dad religiously collected Canadian Tire money in shoeboxes in his closet.

I’ve been a big fan of loyalty programs since my dad religiously collected Canadian Tire money in shoeboxes in his closet.

You might not think of it this way but that retail funny money was an early form of a loyalty program.

These days the trouble with rewardloyalty cards is they tend to proliferate in your wallet. And if you clean it out the one you need ends up missing at the checkout. The other downside to the loyalty business is that retail and travel love affairs end just like human ones. If you’re invested in a single store, hotel or airline and decide to switch your affections all that loyalty goes out the window.

The recession lesson, in terms of loyalty programs, is to consolidate your spending devotion and pick one, preferably attached to a credit card. Use the card for all your everyday purchases like groceries, gas and pharmacy items. Pay off the balance monthly and you will reap the reward awards and enjoy an enhanced credit rating. But don’t get carried away and buy stuff you don’t need solely to get the loyalty reward.

Personally, I like Air Miles because there are over 100 sponsors and thousands of rewards so you are not stuck with one hotel or airline. But whichever loyalty program you choose, be sure to take full advantage.

Shop where the loyalty card is honoured and use both your member card and the credit card to double dip.

In the case of Air Miles, the only way to get the additional bonus points offered is to use both your blue or gold Air Miles card plus the loyalty credit card. I call that the Triple Threat Trick.

Learning how to be a savvy spender will pay huge dividends far beyond this difficult economic period. For example, you can consider all those reward miles as an emergency bank account to pay for an unexpected trip or replace a broken appliance. In the end it’s all about strategic shopping and stretching the buck.

Alison’s Money Rule:

• Learning how to be a savvy spender with a loyalty program can pay huge dividends far beyond this difficult economic period.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at alison@alisongriffiths.ca.

 
 
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